「しのぶメイル 其ノ伍」 (Shinobu Meiru Sono Go)
“Shinobu Mail Part Five”
So there’s this girl, and she had a… fiance? They have a spat, the fiance runs off into the night (light, whatever) and gets smoked. She mopes around for a century or four, but eventually makes peace with it and settles down with some other nice guy, but then lo and behold her original lover her is back as some sort of double undead to fight him for your hand, and baby don’t you remember what we used to share let’s get together come back baby—
At some point I lost track of which parts of this is a metaphor. Certainly, the part where some guy is hounding a woman to regain his ‘sword’ doesn’t mean anything more. Nothing at all.
So, when did Owarimonogatari become a supernatural soap opera? With sparkling vampires, for goodness sakes. I know the vampire/fanged relationship has classically been framed as quasi-romantic (with a capital ‘R’, perhaps) or at least quasi-sexual, but I can’t help but wonder if Shinobu Mail is perhaps not pushing it a bit too hard. If they were going to insist on doing that, I would have at least preferred that they modernised the scenario a bit. As we are now, it’s Kamiya Hiroshi talking to himself for a third of the episode before deciding that there’s nothing to do but pistols at dawn! With the lady as the prize! For honour and testosterone!
Perhaps I’m just suffering from personal values dissonance here, because the second act of the episode did not completely work for me either. Now, I’m all in support of Kanbaru standing up to Shinobu. And I could really feel her emotional intensity. And I do support clear communication most of the time. I like all that. But part of me can’t help but think that much of what she was saying was sophistry. Let’s contextualise a bit here. Araragi was right; the first is acting like a crazy stalker. I really don’t think one should encourage those sorts. But here’s Kanbaru who, for all her charm, is really queen crazy stalker. I don’t want to judge her harshly, but considering her backstory, I think she has clear interests with the crazy stalker lobby. Are there really no legitimate reasons for Shinobu to aboid confronting this ghost of vampire tragedy past? Let’s add a bit more drama to our metaphor, the one with the girl and her fiance. Let’s say, the fiance was a Jehova’s witness. He’s about to die, so she gives him a blood transfusion. The fiance predictably is not happy about it, and kills himself in an act of outrage. The girl is understandably wrecked by it, but after years of therapy manages emotional stability. That’s all a fairly straightforward tale of love and loss until the kicker: the fiance rises from the grave. Zombies are never a part of a normal relationship. What do do, what to do?
See the problem with pushing the romantic-relationship metaphor so hard? The supernatural elements really throw things out of whack here. But the message we can derive is: who cares what Shinobu feels?
Araragi almost manages to, but in the end gives up on it. I think it’s no surprise that he agreed to the duel with the first without consulting with any other interested party, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking it’s a horrible idea. Look, here’s this stalker. He says he wants to negotiate with you, but wants to do it on his terms even though you want nothing from him. Meanwhile, he tries to murder you, y’know, in a show of good faith. So you agree to remove your protection against him and fight his duel? I’ve come to accept that Araragi has no self-preservation instinct by now, but is this really a full chain of logic? After Kanbaru’s big speech, you’re not letting her talk to him now? Eh? How did you come to the conclusion that do it yourself was the proper advice here, Araragi? When has that ever worked well for you?
I really hope that Araragi had thought this further through than he lets on, or Shinobu Mail will just end up as Suruga Monkey: Take 2. At the same time, if everything is resolved just by Shinobu having a chat with the first and making nice with him, I think I might throw up in my mouth a little. There is a happy medium here, and I hope Owarimonogatari finds it.